Asanté: makers of plant-based Mexican food
Asanté is a plant-based food startup from Mexico that is developing meat alternatives with a Mexican flavour. The company was founded by Iván Jiménez and Gaby Rivera, who are both part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. They are joined by Claudio Garibay, the technology partner lead. This is the Asanté story.
What does your startup do and what is your mission?
Iván: At Asanté, we use natural ingredients to create plant-based versions of recipes in which meat is traditionally firmly at the centre of the plate. Beginning with Mexican cuisine, we created a filet with a unique texture, juiciness, and taste.
Gaby: Our mission is to create the taste that helps people to protect our future. We believe that once we offer people a very similar experience to eating animal-based products, in a delicious, healthy, convenient, and affordable way, they will start to transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Gaby: We started our company in 2017. At the time, there were limited options for plant-based meat in Mexico. And none had the taste or nutritional value that we were looking for.
Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project?
Iván: I have a background in Industrial Engineering and an MBA – but I’m also a passionate cook. As the CEO, I bring in my experience in managing large and complex operations in private equity and manufacturing, having previously worked with Unilever.
Gaby: I’m the CAO, with experience in administration, law, and accounting for a real estate and a sports business. I majored in management and finance. And not least, I am a dedicated foodie.
Claudio Garibay: I am the technology partner lead at Asanté. I have a PhD in biotechnology, and I have experience in developing technology from science-based models to large-scale industrial implementation.
What are your favourite parts about building your business?
Iván: I love training for endurance competitions. An Ironman event, for example, is more about the journey than the goal. A purpose-driven startup is similar in that way.
I enjoy being part of an industry that fights to improve our future. We work towards reducing the food-related impact of climate change (which makes up 19% of the 55 billion tons of CO2 emissions), fighting for animal welfare, as well as improving our usage of water and land resources. We aim to improve human health by reducing the consumption of carcinogens, antibiotics, and hormones.
What I enjoy the most though, are the immediate reactions of people who had never tried plant-based meat before. Suddenly, they get excited and want to learn more because they like our products. Few things are as satisfying as this.
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced?
Gaby: We had a poor fit with our initial operating partner, which led to us making mistakes. Eventually, we agreed to buy their stock in the company – but we lost very valuable time.
We also decided to transition from refrigerated to shelf-stable technology, which was a very complex and challenging process. In hindsight, we made the right decisions, and we are now in a better position to attract the capital partners that can help us to grow.
What is it that makes your company unique?
Iván: We are an agile and lean company operating in Mexico – one of the most efficient supply chain corridors in the world. North America has many raw materials, natural resources, and the talent required to create unique plant-based meat products.
It is also the largest consumer market in the world, with a very efficient and automated fulfilment system.
Gaby: Mexico and the US have a very significant impact on climate. Mexico is the second-largest beef exporter in the world, and the US is the largest consumer. In order to make an impact on the global meat market, we need to start by addressing the challenges in these parts of the world. We are one of the first companies to start with this approach.
Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator?
Gaby: ProVeg has the experience, credibility, and global reach that we need to polish our value proposition. They can also help Asanté in finding the right connections to launch our plant-based Mexican food products in the US retail market, and later in the European market as well.
In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful?
Iván: Success requires a particular combination of time, place, and people with good ideas. Resilience helps if you are running in the right direction.
What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months?
Iván: A year from now, we hope to have built a strong team of talented and passionate individuals who will complement our existing team.
We aim to reach $2 million in revenue. We can achieve this goal by either selling one container per month to regional Costco stores in California, or by selling through a strong distributor in different parts of the US.
Gaby: We also intend to make inroads with our disruptive innovation project: producing proteins and flavours via the fermentation of fungal mycelium. In 12 months’ time, we should also be in a good position for a Series A funding round.
If you enjoyed reading about Asanté’s work in the plant-based Mexican food space, check out the previous Q&As with EggField, and Kinoko Labs, and keep your eyes peeled so as not to miss future updates.